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December 27, 2021

Sheri Stoller, Director of Ecommerce at Trilliant Food and Nutrition: How to Develop a Winning Digital Shelf Team

Written by: Satta Sarmah Hightower
"Things in the environment are going to happen that will change your strategy and your long-term vision. So, try to think about, 'Today we’re here. In six, nine, 12, or 18 months, we want to be here,' and the type of resources and team members that you need to get there." — Sheri Stoller, Director of Ecommerce at Trilliant Food and Nutrition

Creating a winning digital shelf strategy also takes a winning digital shelf team. However, the structure and roles on this team can look very different depending on your organization, its needs and goals. So, where should you start?

Lauren Livak, current director of the Digital Shelf Institute and previously the head of Johnson & Johnson’s North American digital shelf strategy, and Sheri Stoller, director of ecommerce at Trilliant Food and Nutrition, provided a game plan for brands who want to build or reimagine their teams. They shared their insights during a recent webinar and podcast, "The Digital Shelf Playbook: Develop a Winning Team."

Want to build a thriving ecommerce organization? Consider these actionable strategies from Livak and Stoller.

Why You Need to Create a Winning Digital Shelf Team

Did you know that it takes 20 minutes to update 20 SKUs on Amazon? Now multiply that by hundreds or thousands of SKUs and you’ll see why it’s so necessary to have the right ecommerce team in place.

"In general, ecommerce takes more time from a setup standpoint than brick-and-mortar," Livak says. "There's more data. There's more content that needs to be found. There are more portals or different technologies that you might need to use. So, thinking about resources, it's very important to provide that context as to why you might need more support or a broader team."

Four Secrets to Winning Digital Shelf Team

Livak says the secret to a winning digital shelf team includes four key elements.

  • Unification: Unify your in-store and online approach instead of working in silos.
  • Executive and organizational buy-in: There will need to be top-down alignment from the executive team, as well as bottom-up engagement from the day-to-day team.
  • Cross-functional alignment: The digital shelf is a team sport and requires cross-functional alignment to be successful.
  • Hands-on-deck: Livak says it’s important not to underestimate the amount of “fingertips” your organization needs to get the work done.

Key Digital Shelf Roles

As organizations start to build their team, it’s critical for them to think about what their ecommerce goals and strategy are, Livak says. From there, they can begin to formulate the right structure for their digital organization and start to develop or reshape their ecommerce team in a way that aligns with their strategy and goals.

Though the most effective structure will vary by organization, key digital shelf roles and jobs often include the following.

Digital Shelf Owner

This is one of the most critical roles because this person serves as the team’s quarterback.

"If you don't have someone owning it, it can be very difficult to drive it forward because that person helps educate the organization, helps bring all those cross-functional partners together, and really is kind of that source of truth for anything digital," Livak says.

Data Validation and Integrity

This role focuses on your content, what it looks like, where you're gathering your in-store data — such as GDSN, your supply chain setup, and e-commerce information — and will ensure this information is accurate and is distributed correctly.

Digital Shelf Analytics

This person focuses on measuring performance and bringing these insights back into the business to drive future improvements.

Digital Innovation

This role focuses on new capabilities that will help your organization deliver a more integrated experience.

Data and Syndication Lead

This role is tasked with figuring out how your organization is getting content onto different retailer channels. It can be in-house or outsourced.

Content Creation

This person focuses on creating compelling product content that will live on your website, Amazon, and on other platforms. This role also can be in-house or outsourced to a creative agency.

Project Management and Administration

This role ensures the people, processes, and technologies within your organization work cohesively and that your ecommerce strategy is successful.

Search and Media

This person focuses on optimizing paid and organic search and ensures all of your content and branding connects across the digital landscape.

Setting Up Your Digital Shelf Team for Success

Once you understand how to structure your ecommerce team, Stoller says organizations can implement several best practices to set their team up for success.

Embrace Both Soft Skills and Experience As You Build Your Team

Stoller says that if you’re building a brand new team, it’s important to find people who understand ecommerce and aren’t afraid of the speed at which ecommerce moves.

"Digital moves very, very fast. [You need] folks that can embrace it, that want to be along on the journey and that get excited about it. Because having a few of those people on your team, that will help you educate the organization as you continue to get the word out about what digital can do for your business," Stoller says.

Stoller says it’s also important to have someone with institutional knowledge on the team who understands your organization as a whole, as well as a person who can hold the key stakeholders involved in your digital shelf execution accountable.

"You need to be able to ensure that you have the right individuals on board that can help move this process along, because waiting for pieces of information and waiting for things to get done, that’ll just slow down your time to market. And that's critical on the digital side," Stoller says.

Prioritize and Focus Your Efforts

No brand can be everything to everyone, so it’s important for companies to gear their ecommerce team’s initial efforts toward the channels that historically have driven revenue growth.

"Where is the majority of your business today? Make sure you have a brand recognition strategy. Make sure you understand your brand messaging and start with your lead retailers and work your way down from there," Stoller says.

Foster Cross-Functional Alignment

The digital shelf requires a lot of cross-functional collaboration and alignment between different functions within an organization. It’s also a team sport, so bringing all these groups together is critical to drive a winning ecommerce strategy and customer experience.

One effective way to bring diverse stakeholders together is to create shared goals. If everyone is working toward the same objective, it’s much easier to break down existing functional silos.

"Digital is never a set it and forget it. That may be part of the education you need to do within your organization. It's ongoing. Ecommerce changes very fast. Digital changes fast, and the consumer is changing even faster, so you really have to make sure that you are in lockstep."— Sheri Stoller, Director of Ecommerce at Trilliant Food and Nutrition

Build Executive Buy-In

Stoller says it can be difficult for executives to truly grasp the ROI that digital offers. So, it’s up to the digital shelf owner and other key stakeholders to evangelize the value of ecommerce and advocate for the different roles the organization needs to ensure its digital shelf strategy is successful.

To build buy-in, "use examples from other companies that have grown in the digital space … use those business cases and those new stories to your advantage because it will help you internally tell the story of why this is important for [your] organization."

Stoller adds it’s also crucial that as you have internal wins, "to be your biggest, loudest cheerleader."

"Maybe if you're brand new and it's the first time that you publish to Amazon, that's a big win. Make sure you share that internally and keep people posted," Stoller adds. "You will be on an education train for a very, very long time, because in every organization that I've been with, everyone has a different understanding and learning of ecommerce."

Evolve Your Team with Your Digital Shelf Strategy

As your ecommerce team grows, you’ll likely need additional resources — whether internal or external. Stoller says there’s nothing wrong with using external resources, but you should just make sure they "can perform at the speed that you need them to."

Stoller adds that having the right resource strategy in place also can help brands be more nimble and agile as the ecommerce landscape changes.

"COVID obviously changed a lot of our goals and a lot of our strategies. I certainly hope that never happens again, but things in the environment are going to happen that will change your strategy and your long-term vision," Stoller says. "So, try to think about, ‘Today we’re here. In six, nine, 12, or 18 months, we want to be here,’ and the type of resources and team members that you need to get there."

Winning on the Digital Shelf

Winning on the digital shelf requires the right strategy and the right team.

Ecommerce is never static, so every brand will need to be as nimble as possible to meet both customers’ and retailers’ changing expectations and ever-evolving channel requirements. Making sure you have talented, experienced, and skilled professionals on your ecommerce team can lay the right foundation for executing a successful digital shelf strategy and position your business to thrive in today’s rapidly changing ecommerce environment.

To hear more insights from Livak and Stoller on how to build a strong team ready to win the digital shelf, check out the full webinar and podcast, "The Digital Shelf Playbook: Develop a Winning Team."

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